Saturday, February 11, 2017

Feminist Folly ~ What’s Wrong with The White Princess

Hello Everyone!

Oh Lord, this is going to be a long one; so much so that I fear I won’t be able to fully make my point in one post. This post has been long and coming, since 2014 honestly. And as the years have gone by I have added more to this rant and put off this post more and more. Honestly I’m glad I put it off for so long, with The White Princess premiering on Starz in a little more than 2 months from now it is time to set my feelings (more like annoyance) free on my blog. About fucking time!

Just a little background for those who are not aware: The White Princess is a continuation of The White Queen, a series that was on BBC and Starz in 2013 based on the book by Philippa Gregory of the same name. At the time of it’s premiere I will admit I was a little excited because Tudor and Plantagenet history is rarely shown in TV and with Downtown Abbey between seasons and The Tudors no longer on TV I was kind of starved for any sort of historical drama. But by the end I was just disgusted with everything about it. Between the added soft core porn, (the BBC version had less sex and nudity but everyone knows that the only way to make history interesting to Americans is to slut it up, RIGHT? AM I RIGHT?!) to the cringey (AND INACCURATE!!) incest scene between Princess Elizabeth and her FUCKING UNCLE Richard III, this show was just a train wreck.

I guess I was not the only one to think so because BBC decided not to make a sequel based on the book The White Princess. Instead Starz decided “you know what? Fuck it, let’s make a series based on The White Princess ourselves without BBC! WITHOUT EVEN THE ORIGINAL CAST!”. And that is just what they did. In some ways The White Princess is actually a worse book than The White Queen and just as inaccurate to history in a most insulting way. But I will get to that soon. 


Considering how far they went to make the promotional poster look almost identical to the one for The White Queen, you would think they would put more of an effort to get the original cast. Guess they could not be bothered with this tripe no more than I can. XD

Anyone who knows me well knows how crazy I am about British History, especially Tudor and Plantagenet history. As such anyone who knows me well also knows that I fucking hate the author Philippa Gregory with passion that burns with the white hot intensity of a thousand suns. Well, I don’t hate her personally since I don’t know her; but I hate her writing and I hate all that she stands for. The main thing that pisses me off about her (other than the fact that the book that made her famous is basically a slightly twisted ripoff of Wuthering Heights) is her “claim” to speak for history when her writing adds up to being on par with bad e-harlequin novels at best. It seems like she cannot write a book without including incest, rape and female backstabbing under the guise of “feminism”.

What really sealed my hatred for her was her book The Other Boleyn Girl which depicts Anne as a conniving manipulative bitch with no redeeming traits outside of being raped by King Henry VIII and who was willing to fuck her own brother in order to produce a son for the king (a grossly false allegation that sent Anne to her death). There are a lot of reasons why Anne Boleyn is till so reviled even in our times (some of which I’ll write about in my yearly May 19th post later this year) but I hold Philippa Gregory partially responsible for this because of her writing and because the average reader is too lazy to do a little research most people believe it and think such things really happened!

Which brings me to The White Princess, which chronicles the life of Queen Elizabeth of York at the conclusion of the Wars of the Roses when she is made to marry the new king of England Henry VII after he kills her uncle Richard III and takes the crown by conquest. Now history tells us that despite not having much political power or influence and not being made Queen Regent in her own right,  Elizabeth and Henry’s marriage was a rather happy one. She birthed many children, including the all important male heir as well as a future Queen of Scotland and Queen of France.

She seems to have been a beloved queen and a loving mother; when she died in childbirth (514 years ago this day) her husband genuinely mourned her death and would not remarry. If you are interested, I highly recommend watching the 1972 drama “The Shadow of the Tower” which shows the affection between Elizabeth and Henry quite well. They were not in love at first of course and a little of their famed love could be easily written off as Tudor propaganda, but over many years they did grow to love each other. I believe that.

A small selection of Elizabeth’s scenes in The Shadow of the Tower. While I’m not much of a fan of how they made Elizabeth a bit headstrong and haughty, it’s still a good representation and much better than how her treatment in The White Princess will be.

In The (fucking) White Princess Elizabeth is in love with her uncle Richard and commits incest with him at least once before he is killed and hopes to marry him and become his queen. Henry then rapes Elizabeth and decides to put off their wedding to be sure she is not pregnant by Richard. He proceed to treat her like shit throughout the book and is under the nose of his psycho mother (do not even get me STARTED on her bad treatment in this tripe novel) and all the while Elizabeth continues to dream about her uncle (whom may I remind you took the crown away from her brothers and her, locked her brothers away in the Tower and is the reason why Henry Tudor invaded in the first fucking place). It’s not a very fun read honestly and a real insult to the history of these people.

 The trailer 

But here is the thing; I don’t want to talk about all that. Oversexualization in premium cable dramas is not a new thing, nor is oversexualizing history to make it more palatable to the average stupid viewer who is too ashamed to look up some actual porn and  neither is the over use of rape as a plot point (just look at what HBO did to Game of Thrones!) It’s all disturbing and unnecessary but sadly it’s still there. I want to talk about the asinine way that the producers seem to be changing the series from the novel to make it more interesting and the even more asinine  idea that this somehow will make this a feminist friendly show.

I understand that the term “feminist” has been more or less reduced to a buzzword, almost a derogatory term and no one can seem to understand what it originally meant or people use it and change it’s meaning to suit their needs whenever they can. The general idea is that anything that advocates for female superiority over men and or has a strong representation of women to the point that all men are evil or inept (I’m looking at you 2016 Ghostbusters) is what is considered feminist. Personally I think that is ludicrous and gives actual feminism a bad name. Honestly I have little hope of feminism ever being seen as anything but a joke now because of such ideas.

Based on the little shown in the trailer and based on articles I’ve read about the series, that seems to be the route they are taking with it and if I were to be completely honest, I’d have more respect for the show and it’s production staff if they just stuck to the book. Totally twisting around not only history but the book to make Elizabeth of York this feisty bitchy warrior queen (she even strikes Henry in the trailer and I feel like this is when the rape scene will happen) and making the whole story of these women about backstabbing and political turmoil is not only grossly inaccurate but also an insult to Elizabeth’s own feminine agency.

“I’m stronger than I look! I’m a badass warrior who don’t need no man!”

Feminism is not only about feminine triumph over the obstacles of a misogynistic society and simply being strong or “badass” does not make for a good female character. This is one of the reasons I did not much like the 2015 version of Cinderella and absolutely reviled the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters. Female superiority should never be what feminism is, what it should be is respecting and celebrating all women no matter what they what or how they are. The cold fact of the matter is that female subservience to men is a big part of women’s roles in history, it sucks of course but that is just how it is. History has no safe spaces.

Were there badass women in history? Of course, but for every Isabella of France or Anne Boleyn there were at least three Elizabeth’s of York. But that does not mean we should look down on Elizabeth as uninteresting or so bland that she must be made “strong” to be relatable. One article I read even stated that the changing of Elizabeth’s character from passive to badass was actually a good thing. Ugh!

No she was not as ambitious as her mother or mother-in-law Margret Beaufort but do you know what Elizabeth was? Elizabeth of York was a loving mother who taught her younger children to read and write as opposed to sending them to tutors. Elizabeth of York was a peacemaker whom bought end to a war with her marriage. Elizabeth of York was the Mother of the Tudor Dynasty and gave name to the greatest of their monarchs: Elizabeth I. Elizabeth was a kind and generous woman and was so loved by her husband that he never remarried after her death and fell into deep depression (it is generally agreed that this is when most of the corruption of his reign began).

A contemporary illuminated manuscript done around the time of Elizabeth’s death. The king looks very sad and his daughters can be seen in the background wearing black mourning hoods. The little prince Henry can be seen weeping on his mother’s bed.

That was her agency. That may not seem like much compared to other historical women but I feel like demeaning the more traditional aspects of womanhood in the name of having strength is one of the greatest follies of 21st century feminism. Many women willingly choose such roles for themselves and happily find fulfillment in them. Be it mother or warrior, neither role is superior to the other.

But that is the exact type of bullshit pumpkin spiced “pussy grabs back” “feminazi” pandering that this show is gearing up to be. At best it will probably be more like a 15th century version of the 80s show Dynasty with lots of bodice ripping and female backstabbing for good measure. If that’s what you like than fine, but its not feminist. And calling it such is not only stupid but just makes it more difficult for the world to take seriously actual feminists. Doesn’t feminism and historical fact have enough issues without Philippa Gregory and Starz making our plight all the more difficult? I look forward to watching it online when it’s made available if only to laugh at it’s absurdity and inwardly weep as another one bites the dust.

Yours Jasmine

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